Kaneland thrust itself into the playoff picture last Friday with a 20-14 win at previously undefeated Morris.
The Knights finished 4-5 a year ago and missed the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, but they turned some heads by winning on the road against the No. 2-ranked team in Class 4A.
Going into that game, Kaneland (4-3, 3-1 Northern Illinois Big 12 East) was 0-3 against teams with winning records: Geneva (4-3), Rich Central (5-2) and DeKalb (6-1, 2-1).
Beating Morris didn't come as a surprise to the Knights, who guaranteed themselves at least a share of the NIB 12 East title.
"Our boys had goals at the beginning of the year that they wanted to be conference champions and they wanted to be in the playoffs," first-year coach Pat Ryan said. "They've been working really hard. We've been saying since June we think we're a good football team. We finally had everybody 100 percent healthy and everything came together for us."
Kaneland played a complete game against Morris. The Knights gained 393 total yards, 292 via the arm of quarterback Jack Douglas. He had the luxury of throwing to senior receiver Josh Marczuk, who made 8 catches for 175 yards, including touchdowns of 65 and 28 yards. Marczuk's 28-yard scoring receptions staked Kaneland to a 20-7 lead with 21 seconds to play in the first half.
Meanwhile, the Kaneland defense held Morris to 213 total yards and notched 3 interceptions.
Besides being healthy for the first time in weeks, Ryan said the Knights are thriving lately because "we're getting guys in the right spots on the field. Early in the season you have a feeling that this kid can play but maybe you don't have him in the right spot. We're starting to figure that out."
Senior Trevor Jones is a good example. A few weeks ago the coaching staff moved him from backup inside linebacker to outside linebacker, where he has made an impact. Jones is a running back on offense, but the deceptive ball carrier occasionally plays quarterback in the wildcat formation.
Kaneland can become playoff eligible Friday with a home win against Geneseo in a NIB 12 crossover. The Knights finish the regular season at Ottawa (1-6)
Talon-ted backfield: Jacobs' opponents have to prepare for more than just all-area running back Loren Strickland, who has rushed for nearly 600 yards and 11 touchdowns
The Golden Eagles have received big contributions in recent weeks from junior fullback Stephen Kavanaugh and senior running back Caleb Walker.
All three ball carriers followed their talented offensive line to the end zone in last week's 35-7 win at Glenbard East. Kavanaugh led the way with 130 yards on 18 carries while Walker had 7 carries for 95 yards. Strickland added 56 yards on 7 carries.
It was the third straight 100-yard rushing game for Kavanaugh, who finished with 103 yards on 22 carries in a 27-3 win over Crystal Lake Central and 104 yards on 20 carries in a 27-3 victory against McHenry.
"We're pretty balanced between Strickland, Kavanaugh and Caleb," coach Bill Mitz said.
Jacobs (5-2, 4-2) will need all its weapons in Friday's Fox Valley Conference game at top-ranked Prairie Ridge (7-0, 6-0). The defending Class 6A champions have outscored their opponents 330-111.
This one goes to 11: St. Charles North's defense is riding a scoreless streak heading into Friday's Upstate Eight River home game against Geneva (4-3, 3-2).
Coming off back-to-back shutouts of Elgin and Streamwood, St. Charles North (6-1, 4-0) has played 11 straight quarters without yielding a point. Glenbard East was the last team to score a touchdown against the them in the first quarter of a 38-6 St. Charles North victory on Sept. 22.
"We feel like we're doing well, but we still feel like we should be forcing more turnovers," said North Stars coach Rob Pomazak, whose defense has made 6 interceptions and recovered 2 fumbles. "That's something we really need to make an emphasis on and we need our kids to get it done on the field. But we've been happy for the most part."
Leading tacklers for the North Stars include junior linebacker Dan Daley (44) and senior end Tobi Adedara (41). Inside linebacker Chris Edlund is third with 34 tackles after making the switch from outside linebacker. The senior also has 3 sacks and 3 tackles for loss.
"He's just kind of like Mr. Consistency," Pomazak said of Edlund. "He'll play with his hand in the dirt and he'll also move back to inside backer. We move him around a little bit. He's just a real good athlete who's going to create a mismatch for teams. He has a nose for the ball. I think we had 2 interceptions a couple of weeks back and, looking at the tape, he's the one causing pressure. He's always around the ball and I think he's really an unsung hero on the defense because he's just so consistent. He gets it done on a day-to-day basis."